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Violin Tips: How to Become a Better Violinist With Itzhak Perlman’s 3-Hour Practice Schedule

Written by MasterClass

Jun 6, 2019 • 3 min read

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Itzhak Perlman Teaches Violin

Grammy Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman recommends an every-day practice schedule composed of three elements: scales, exercises and études, and repertoire.

  • First hour: scales
  • Second hour: études
  • Third hour: repertoire
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Hour 1: Scales

Scales, which go upward and downward in steps, allow you to work on your sound, intonation, finger patterns, and bow control all at the same time. Arpeggios, which skip up and down the scale on chord tones, also help with shifting and keeping your hand frame.

Itzhak Perlman suggests starting your scale routine with slow bows, concentrating on getting a healthy sound and good tone from your violin. Play a different scale each day, and take care to play it in tune. Practice various bowings and rhythms. As you get more advanced, you can practice double-stop scales in thirds, sixths, octaves, and tenths.

Here are some popular scale methods and their features:

  • Elementary Scales and Bowings for Strings: (Harvey Whistler) Scales for the beginner. The book also contains charts that show violin finger placement in various keys.
  • Scale-Studies for the Violin: (Jan Hř.malý) Two- and three-octave scales and arpeggios for the intermediate student.
  • Contemporary Violin Technique: (Ivan Galamian) This contains the rhythmic formula for Armenian violin instructor Ivan Galamian’s famous three-octave acceleration scales, as well as many different ways to do scales. There is also a cycle of three-octave arpeggios as well as double-stop scales.
  • Scale System: (Carl Flesch) A rather dense and complex set of scale exercises for the advanced violinist.
  • Double Stops: Scales and Scale Exercises for the Violin: (Simon Fischer) An extremely detailed book that breaks double-stop scales down into manageable steps, focusing on thirds, sixths, octaves, fingered octaves, and tenths.

Hour 2: Études and Exercises

An étude, which mean “study” in French, is a musical exercise written to practice a specific
technique. In addition to scales and arpeggios, they’re an excellent way to learn the patterns and skills you’ll need for violin-playing at every level. Start with this selection of books filled with études and exercises written for violin, roughly in order from elementary through advanced (but bear in mind your violin teacher should advise according to your level).

Études

  • Sixty Studies for the Violin, Op. 45: (Franz Wohlfahrt) Often a student’s first book of études, these address string crossing, bow strokes, shifting, and finger patterns. The first 30 are in first position, while the last 30 incorporate third position as well.
  • 36 Elementary and Progressive Études, Op. 20: (H.E. Kayser) Études that cover a wide variety of techniques including bowing, shifting, and fingering. For beginning to intermediate violinists.
  • 75 Melodious and Progressive Studies, Op. 36: (Jaques F. Mazas) Studies by the French composer Mazas, who mostly wrote pedagogical studies and methods for violin and viola students.
  • 42 Studies for the Violin: (Rodolphe Kreutzer) These studies are an essential rite of passage for nearly every violinist transitioning into more advanced studies.
  • 36 Études or Caprices for Violin Solo: (Federigo Fiorillo) Advanced exercises that include techniques such as double-stops, string crossings, bowing patterns, and more.
  • 24 Caprices for Violin: (Pierre Rode) Studies that encourage the player’s facility over the whole instrument.
  • 24 Études: (Pierre Gavini.s) Études that cover all 24 keys and a wide variety of techniques.
  • 24 Études and Caprices, Op. 35, for Violin Solo: (Jakob Dont) Études that violinists generally study after Kreutzer’s études and before the Paganini Caprices.
  • Études-Caprices, Op. 18: (Henryk Wieniawski) These work as both technical studies and concert pieces. The second violin part plays simple harmony to the first violin’s virtuosic and technical part.
  • 24 Caprices, Op. 1, for Violin Solo: (Niccolo Paganini) Some of the most technically difficult pieces ever written for violin, these are often performed as concert pieces. Paganini was so virtuosic that it was rumored he’d sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his astonishing violin technique.

Exercises

  • The Artist’s Technique of Violin Playing: (Demetrius Constantine Dounis) Advanced exercises for use at the beginning of a practice session; they emphasize finger dexterity and shifting.
  • Preparatory Exercises in Double Stopping, Op. 9: (Otakar Ševč.k) Exercises to improve fluency in double-stops and chords.

Hour 3: Repertoire

Once you have played your scales, exercises, and études, it’s time to work on your repertoire— the pieces you wish to perform. These can be anything from a short piece to a concerto. Discuss this with your teacher.

Learn more practice techniques for the violin in Itzhak Perlman’s MasterClass.